Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Ch-Ch-Changes! (Apologies to David Bowie)

This really has little to do with Passover per se but several years ago on Passover a chapeau noir (CN) friend and I had a spirited debate on Passover re: this subject so here goes

His meta-premises were:

  1. That The torah pre-dates creation
  2. That The Torah is unchangeable/immutable.

Ergo what is unkosher NOW was always unkosher.

I tried to show that there is a Meta-Mitzva in Leviticus 18:3. It is our torah reading for Yom Kippur afternoon. Viz. Thou shalt not behave as the Egyptians and the Cananites. Narrowly construed it deals with incest, etc. As found in Lev. 18. However, it appears to explain several other prohibitions as well

  1. No leaven on Passover
  2. No Leaven with Sacrifices
  3. No honey with Sacrifice.

My CN friend said that if the torah prohibited it now, it was always prohbited. Then he insinuated that anyone who thinks that mitzvot have evolved after Creation are into heresy....

I then stunned him by showing him Rashi on Devarim 16:22 (re: stone monuments)
"... This one HE hates because it was a Canaanite statute; EVEN THOUGH it was beloved during the era of the Patriarchs.." IOW for Abraham et. Al. It was desirable, but the Canaanites contaminated it by using it for their worship. NB: He didn't appreciate having insinuated that Rashi was saying something heretical :-)

My main contribution to this is that this falls under the rubric of the meta-Mitzva of Lev. 18:3How leavening/sourdough and how honey acquired baggage from Egypt is the topic of another post BEH soon.

The point is that certain Mitzvot WERE generated as a response to events and were NOT necessarily legislated before Breishit (the Beginning; or better: the BIG INNING :-) as baseball approaches)

And my CN friend may have been correct in principle; viz. that the torah indeed predates Creation and is indeed imutable. However he erred in understanding its implications. A more nuanced - and more accurate - understanding would take an essay.

Meanwhile, on this earthly plane my CN friend should be advised not to take certain things (such as a Midrash) too literally or rigidly. :-). And that what was OK once upon a time may have accumulated baggage making it no longer OK

Zissen Pesach

published 4/2/09


Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

I once heard what I felt was an interesting perspective that attempted to reconcile these two divergent opinions. We may contend that a specific item was prohibited because of its use in idolatrous religious practices but we may still wonder why they were actually used in this manner by the pagans. What this individual maintained, from a somewhat mystical perspective, was that the very reason the idol worshippers used this practice was because they saw and recognized some value in it from their pagan perspective. The Torah in rejecting this practice, as such, is not only rejecting it because of its historical use by pagans but because of the very value that attracted it to the idol worshippers -- a value that the Torah never wanted in avodat Hashem. So, for example, if honey in sacrifices was outlawed by the Torah because it was used by pagans, it should be further recognized that these pagans did so because they saw a value in it. What they saw actually existed from the dawn of Creation -- and just as the pagans saw in it something that they would want associated with their practice, the Torah always never wanted this value associated with Torah practice. IOW it is not simply that these items became prohibited because of their involvement in idolatry but their involvement in idolatry reflected their value that would explain their rejection by Torah. IOW, the value constructs of each behaviour was already existent at Creation. The information as to how these acts were introduced in the pagan rights of nations is to assist us in undertanding these concepts.

As to the case posed by Rabbi Wolpoe regarding a practice that was beloved when done by the forefathers but shunned later in history, the case of sibling incest may help in understanding in it. Kayan and Hevel clearly married their sisters. Was this because it was simply okay then and only later became prohibited? It would seem not to be the case. The reasons for forbidding incest existed even in the case of Kayan and Hevel. There were just in that case other reasons that overode this prohibition. When these other reasons were no longer applicable, the reason for prohibition became dominant. The value structure associated with the behaviour never changed. The circumstances that considered this value in light of other issues did however change. The argument that Torah cannot change is basically an argument that there will no longer be a change in historical circumstances that will demand such a dimilar substantial change in Torah directives.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Rabbi R Wolpoe said...

I have another perspective but it is really hard to explain in writing.

God indeed could have created an immutable Torah 2,000 years before creation

however that is NOT the torah WE HAVE in the five books of Moses.

The Five Books of Moses has decided events which would impinge upon bechira. it is virtually untenable to name names in a book written in stone!

The simple answer is that God has a meta Torah that was observed by the Avos. This meta torah is indeed an immutable program

The five books of Moses is the OUTPUT from that program! In other words given the data that Egyptians used honey in worship POOF there HAD to be a mitzva to not use honey. This pre-supposes the Egyptians were who they were.

Had history been DIFFERENT and Israel had been exiled to say SYRIA and they had a delicay made from LATAKIA tobacco POOF then our Torah would have prohibited that LATAKIA tobacco from being used to burn any kind of incense!

So the Torah of God is NOT the Torah of Moses. The Torah of Moses is the product or output of events as processed thru God's program and had bechira been differen the Five books would look differfent but God's Torah would be identical.

And Qabbalah is really backformation or reverse engineering!

Thus, for example, Stalin had a captured B-29 bomber which was handed over to Soviet engineers who picked it apart in minute detail. The result was a new bomber based upon the reversw engeineering the Telushin xx [I forget the number]

Qabblists or even Darshanim are looking at the product and reverse engineering the hidden meta torah that PRODUCED the five books of Moses

So we call our Holy Torah as immutable. But it is really the roduct of a merger of free will history and the programming in Ma'seh Breishit and Ma'aseh Merkava!

Anyway it needs more refining. But the issue of free will and immutablity is resolved by a Brisker hilluk, there is TWO torahs, OUR TORAH and the original esotreric Torah

OUR torah provides a Gzeira as an adjustment to historical events.
God was Gozer against Matzeiva,
Rabbis are gozer not to play marbles on dirt on Shabbos lest one level the land.

Both are Torah reactions to human nature or historical events

Zissen Pesach